Games on Shabbat

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The essence of enjoying Shabbat is spiritual and at the same time should be pleasurable for every individual. It is for this reason that adults (anyone above Bar or Bat Mitzvah) should desist from games on Shabbat.[1] Children may play games but should be careful with which games they play. For further elaboration of this point, see the discussion page.

Games Which Are Muktzeh

  1. The following items are considered by some to be Kli Sh’Melachto LeHeter while others consider by others to be Kli Sh’Melachto LeIssur.
    1. Jigsaw puzzles [2]
    2. lego (toy) [3]

Children Under the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Even children as young as 4 or 5 should only play with games or toys which are permissible on Shabbat. [4] Children younger than that though, can use toys that are usually considered muktze. [5]
  2. Some poskim permit an adult to move an otherwise muktzeh toy for a young child, because the child will play with it so it isn't considered muktzeh. [6]

Noisemakers

  1. Items which make noise, such as bells, rattles, and musical instruments, are Muktzeh. [7]
  2. It’s permissible for an adult to give a baby a toy that makes noise, such as whistles, rattles, or other noisemakers. [8] Some say that one shouldn't give such a toy directly to the baby, but should place the toy in front of him, unless the baby won’t take it for himself. [9]
  3. An adult shouldn't personally use a noisemaker (such as a rattle) to entertain a baby [10] unless there’s a necessity (such as to calm down a crying baby,) and even in such, a case it’s preferable for the adult to shake it in an unusual manner. [11]
  4. Children that are above the age of chinuch (approximately four years old) should be taught not to use these noisemakers on Shabbat. [12]
  5. However, toys whose primary function are not for noise, such as a merry-go-round that clicks as is used, may be used by children on Shabbat. [13]
  6. A toy that hangs from the crib is not muktzeh because although it does make noise it can also be used to look at. [14]

Playing with sand

  1. It’s permissible for children to play with sand that’s fine, dry, and prepared before Shabbat for this use (as in a sandbox). One may not add water to the sand on Shabbat (a violation of Losh.) [15]
  2. A child who understands the holiness of Shabbat should not be let to play with a sifting toy which sifts out pebbles or dirt from the sand because of the melacha of Merakaid.[16]

Clay

  1. It’s forbidden to play with clay or plaster on Shabbat. [17]

Paper folding

  1. On Shabbat, one should not make a toy out of folded paper such as a boat or a hat. [18]
  2. One may fold paper table napkins on Shabbat [19]

Snow

Walking

  1. One may walk normally on snow without concern that he is causing it to melt. [20] This is true even if your shoes have letters which will be imprinted into the snow. [21]

Muktzeh

  1. Some say that snow isn’t considered Muktzeh, while others believe it is. In any event it is forbidden to make snowballs or a snowman on Shabbat. [22]

Shoveling

  1. There is a discussion amongst the poskim if one is allowed to shovel snow on Shabbat. [23]

Salt

  1. One may spread salt on icy walkway or stairs on Shabbat to prevent people from slipping.[24]

Magnets

  1. Magnets are not muktzeh on Shabbat. [25] Some hold that it is permissible to attach things using a magnet. [26] Others disagree and say that it is an issue of tofer. [27]

Marbles

  1. Children may play with marbles inside the house (as long as it has flooring and not bare earth) but not outside. [28]

Playing with a ball

  1. A play-ball according to some Sephardic poskim is Muktzeh, while Ashkenazic poskim hold it’s Kli Sh’Melachto LeHeter [29]
  2. Children may play ball games on paved (asphalt or concrete) ground or on a ping-pong table, both indoors or outside, as long as there’s an appropriate Eruv. [30]
  3. It’s forbidden to get a ball out of a tree whether by hand or using a stick. [31]
  4. It’s permissible to blow up inflatable balls which had been previously inflated so long as the air is kept in using a plastic or rubber insertion. However, if the opening is usually tied after inflation, the ball is Muktzeh and can’t be used. [32] Similarly, some permit one to inflate a balloon on Shabbat for a child. [33]
  5. It’s not within the sanctity of Shabbat to visit a sports game even if there’s no issue of the admissions ticket. [34]

Bikes

  1. Children shouldn’t ride a bike on Shabbat, however a tricycle or scooter is permissible only within in an eruv. Preferably, the bell on the scooter should be removed. [35]

Swings

  1. It’s permissible to climb a swing set, but it is forbidden to climb a tree or ascend a ladder which leans against a tree. (This is a Rabbinic prohibition related to Kotzer). [36]
  2. It’s permissible to use a swing suspended from a swing set. [37]
  3. Some permit using a swing suspended from a tree as long as the tree doesn’t shake when used; however, a tire suspended from a tree shouldn’t be used. Others forbid all swings suspending from a tree unless the swing suspends from a pole that’s attached to two trees. [38]

Toy car

  1. It’s permissible to wind up a spring motorized toy on Shabbat. [39]
  2. Before Shabbat one must remove batteries from a battery run toy in order that the child can play with it on Shabbat. [40]

Binoculars and Telescopes

  1. It is permissible to use binoculars or a telescope on Shabbat, provided that no electricity or special assembly equipment is used. [41]
  2. One may focus binoculars on Shabbat. [42]

Jacks

  1. Playing five stone (a type of jacks) is permissible and isn’t an issue of Muktzeh. [43]

Photographs

  1. It’s permissible to place a photograph into an album unless the photo’s adhere to the page or is stuck into the album even by means of a corner piece. (See page on Tofer.)[44]

Lego or Tinkertoy

Lego.jpg
  1. Many poskim hold that playing with Lego or Tinkertoy is permitted and isn’t considered building (see page on Boneh) and is permissible. [45] Others are strict. [46]

Board games

  1. Using dice on Shabbat is permitted. [47]

Monopoly

  1. It is permitted to play monopoly on Shabbat, while others say that one should refrain. [48]

Scrabble

  1. Some poskim consider Scrabble a kli shemelachto li'isur since it is a game which involves writing down the score. [49]
  2. It’s forbidden to play a game that one normally writes when playing the game. (See the page on Kotaiv.) [50] Therefore, some say that scrabble shouldn’t be played on Shabbat because one normally writes when playing the game. [51]
  3. Some hold that it is permissible to play as long as you do not use the scrabble board that has individual squares for each tile (which creates an additional problem of kosev.)

Card games

  1. It’s permissible to play card games; however, when one is finished, one may not separate the cards in order to put them away as this may constitute Borer.[52]

Puzzles

  1. Some poskim permit building puzzles on Shabbat, while others forbid. (See the page on Kotaiv.) To avoid the issue of Borer (separating) one must be careful not to separate pieces that one doesn’t want from those that one wants. [53]

Sources

  1. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:1, Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim pg 132), Kaf Hachaim 308:259, Sh"t Az Nidberu 1:13, Yam Shel Shlomo Masechet Beitzah 1:34. See Sh”t Or Letzion 2:45:5 who only permits games for girls under Bat Mitzvah because for adults it’s an issue of muktzah, and for boys under Bar Mitzvah it’s an issue of getting them involved in something that will cause Bitul Torah. The Gemara Yerushalmi Shabbat 15:3 writes that Shabbat was given for people to learn torah. Ben Ish Chai (Parashat Shemot Halacha 2) writes that the reward for learning torah on Shabbat is one thousand times greater than during the week.
  2. Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat (pg 25 note 24) considers puzzles to be Keli SheMelachto LeIssur as it’s forbidden to put together a puzzle on Shabbat. So writes Shalmei Yehuda (pg 90) quoting Rav Elyashiv. [It’s clear to me, that the above poskim hold like those who forbid building puzzles [including Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:23]. However, according to those who are lenient regarding building puzzles [Sh”t Or Letzion 2:45:6, Sh”t Beer Moshe 6:26, Rav Pinchas Scheinberg (“Children in Halacha” pg 140), and Menuchat Ahava (vol 3, 22:16) under certain conditions (see there)], the jigsaw puzzle should only be Kli Sh’Melachto LeHeter.]
  3. Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat (pg 24) in name of Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that since they are designated for children’s use (if the child takes it himself) these are Kli Sh’Melachto LeHeter, and Shalmei Yehuda (pg 90) quotes Rav Elyashiv saying that since primarily the toys are used for building which is forbidden but still it could be given to a child to play with (without putting them together) it’s considered Keli SheMelachato LeIssur.
  4. Or Litzion 2:42:5
  5. Tiltulei Shabbos pg. 22:footnote 2 in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein.
  6. Sh"t Iggerot Moshe 5:22:10, Sh"t Beer Moshe 6:24, Sh"t Yabia Omer 7:39
  7. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:2. Shulchan Shlomo pg. 280 however, permits moving a rattle even if this will make noise
  8. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:3, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 4, pg 1161-2)
  9. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 134)
  10. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:3, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 4, pg 1161)
  11. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 135)
  12. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 133)
  13. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 134)
  14. Shalmei Yehuda 5:15, Shevet Halevi 9:78
  15. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:4, Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 137-8), 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 253). see page on Losh
  16. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 516)
  17. Children in Halacha (pg 140), Sh”t Bear Moshe 6:34, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:13
  18. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:21
  19. Sh"t Rivivot Ephraim 1:223:8
  20. Shulchan Aruch 320:13, Yalkut Yosef 320:25
  21. Yalkut Yosef 320:25, Yabea Omer 5:28, Sh"t Maharam Brisk 1:59, Sh"t Chelkat Yaakov 2:132
  22. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 138). Beer Moshe 1:20, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchita 16:note 110 rule that snow isn't muktzeh based on the Gemara Eruvin 46a and Tosfot Beitzah 2a s.v. ka which says that rain is not muktzeh as nolad because the moisture was in the clouds before the rain fell. Rivivot Ephraim 1:223:1 agrees.
    However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (quoted in The Halachos of Muktza, pg. 165 note 10) stated that snow is muktzeh because it isn’t normally used and therefore would be like sticks or stones, even if it fell before Shabbat. In Iggerot Moshe OC 5:22 he was asked if you can move snow, based on his earlier psak that its muktzeh, and says that it is prohibition because of nolad and explains what makes it different from rain.
    • Rav Elyashiv in Shalmei Yehuda (pg 203) and Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata consider snow to be non-Muktzeh, while Sh”t Igrot Moshe 5:22(37) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat (pg 13) consider it severe Muktzeh.
  23. Mishneh Halachot 5:4 says that in a place without an eruv, one can ask a non-Jew to shovel snow because of the danger. Contemporary Questions in Halacha and Hashkofah pg. 137 writes that one should seek a non-Jew to clear the snow but If a non-Jew was not available and the conditions were hazardous getting in and out of the house, as a last resort, there may be room to be lenient and clear a small path. He adds that a Rav should be consulted. Rav Osher Weiss says even a Jew can shovel on a path that needs to be used and certainly one can have a non-Jew shovel for him
  24. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 368), Yalkut Yosef Shabbat 3 320:24, Rav Osher Weiss
  25. Tiltulei Shabbat (pg 32)
  26. Halachically Speaking in the name of Rav Yisrael Belsky
  27. Halachically Speaking quoting Rav Elyashiv from sefer Migdal Dovid page 599:footnote 28
  28. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:5
    • Shevut Yitzchak (pg 89) quotes Rav Elyashiv (See also Sefer Orchos Shabbos 19:76 and Dirshu Mishna Brura 308:161 who quote Rav Elyashiv and others who rule leniently even for those who follow the Shulchan Aruch), as saying that even Shulchan Aruch would agree that the modern play-ball is non-Muktzeh. Even though Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A 308:84; authored by Rav Yitzchak Yosef) writes one should follow S”A 308:45 that considers all balls to be Muktzeh, Chazon Ovadia (Shabbat v. 3, p. 99; authored by Rav Ovadia Yosef) rules that nowadays since the balls are made to this purpose they aren't Muktzeh. However, the Mishna Brurah 308:157 implies that the mere fact that one plays with an item as a ball does not give it the status of a kli, which would seem to imply that even if it were manufactured to be a ball it would be prohibited according to the Shulchan Aruch. Rabbi Hershel Schachter (Gemara Shabbos Shiur 87) explained in shiur that chazal patterned the prohibition of tiltul keilim after the biblical guidelines in hilchos tumah. Consequently, the Shulchan Aruch felt that since a ball is not considered a kli in regards to hilchos tumah it cannot be considered a kli and is therefore muktzah on Shabbos.
    Sh”t Or Letzion 2:26:8 writes that a ball is considered Muktzah for boys and girls above Bar and Bat mitzvah. Other games are generally not muktzah but should preferably be treated as muktzah and not moved.
    • For Ashkenazim the Rama 308:45 certainly considers balls to be non-Muktzeh. Rav Moshe Feinstein quoted by Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat (pg 22 note 16), Rav Elyashiv in Shalmei Yehuda (pg 91), and Sh"t Shevet Halevi 9:78 agree.
  29. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:6. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 137) adds that any game which the ball rolls on the ground may not be played except on pavement; however, other ball games can be played even on grass. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 140) says that it’s permissible to play ping-pong.
  30. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:7, Mishna Brurah 336:3, Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 137)
  31. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:8, Binyan Shabbos pg. 137. Rav Elyashiv (quoted in Shalmei Yehuda pg. 92) however, holds that it is a problem of uvda dichol. see also Sh"t Minchat Yitzchak 6:30 and Sh"t Chelkat Yaakov 3:159 who are stringent as well
  32. Children in Halacha (pg 139)
  33. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:9
  34. Children in Halacha (pg 138).
    • Even if there is a proper Eruv, there are Poskim, including the Shu"t Mayim Chaim (R' Yosef Meshash, Siman 128), who claim that it is prohibited to ride a bike, because the chain might break and one might come to fix it on Shabbat. However, the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Pe'alim, vol. 1, Orach Chaim, Siman 25 and Hashmatot) quotes the Rosh (Shabbat 2:15) that after Chatimat HaTalmud, we don't institute Gezerot of our own intuition, even if there's a tremendous Chashash. Tosafot in Chullin 104a also says something similar. In fact, the Ben ish chai permits riding a bike in an eruv but some claim that the Ben Ish Chai eventually changed his mind concerning riding a bicycle on Shabbos (see Sh”t Yaskil Avdi OC 3:12:5:4).
    • The Shu"T Mayim Chayim claims further that riding a bike is some form of Melacha, as it takes skill to do it, but he never explains what exact Melacha.
    • Rav Azriel Hildesheimer (in his Shu"t, vol. 1, Orach Chaim, Siman 49) prohibits bike riding since it's a Pesik Reisheh of making a furrow, but Rav Ovadia (Chazon Ovadia Shabbat vol. 4 page 40) says that since it's already Kilachar Yad, and in the Reshut HaRabbim, it's a Pesik Reisheh MiDeRabbanan DeLa Nicha Leh, and Muttar LeKulei Alma. Additionally, since the wheels are covered with rubber tires, it's like a baby carriage which is Kovesh, not Choresh, and Muttar.
    • Finally, Rav Ovadia concludes it's simply Assur because of Uvdin DeChol even if it's for a Mitzvah, because people use it to get to their destination quickly, and Chazal expounded on the Pasuk in Yeshayahu that one's walking on Shabbat should be different from his walking during the week. For Ketanim who have reached Chinuch, it's advisable to prohibit it, but tricycles are permissible, since they're made for kids specifically, as long as one removes the bell before Shabbat. There is no difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov. This is also the ruling of the Shemirat Shabbat KeHilcheta (Perek 16, Seif 17, page 185), the Mishneh Halachot (vol. 7, Siman 71), Tzitz Eliezer 7:30:1, Kaf HaChaim (404:8), and Ohr LeTzion (vol. 2, Perek 42, Seif 1), who also prohibit bike riding for similar reasons. see also Rabbi Eli Mansour
  35. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:15
  36. Children in Halacha (pg 140), Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:16
  37. Children in Halacha (pg 140) is lenient, while Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:16 is stringent.
  38. Children in Halacha (pg 139), Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:14
  39. Children in Halacha (pg 139)
  40. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchita 16:45
  41. Kaf Hachaim 313:73, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchita 16:45, Ketzot HaShulchan 119:12 explain that this does not pose a problem of boneh because it is the regular method of use. see also Sh"t Tzitz Eliezer 6: pg. 296
  42. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:11, Chazon Ovadia Shabbat vol. 3 page 103 (as long as it's inside).
  43. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:12
  44. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:18, Sh”t Or Letzion vol 2 (chap 42:5 pg 272), Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 13:30, Sh”t Be'er Moshe 6:25, Sh”t Yabia Omer 7:39(4), Yechaveh Da'at 2:55, Yalkut Yosef 314:1, Chazon Ovadia (Shabbat v. 3 pp. 101-103 and v. 5 pp. 293-4), Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 135).
    • The Shulchan Aruch 314:1 based on the gemara (Shabbos 122b) comes to the conclusion that there is not a prohibition of boneh in regard to keilim. Therefore, in S”A 313:6 he writes one can put together utensils that are made of different parts when the connection is flimsy. However, if one firmly forces one piece into another, there is a torah prohibition. The Magen Avraham (313:12) and Taz (313:7) rule that things whose use is by constantly opening and closing them are not bound by the usual parameters of building. Chacham Ovadia Yosef (Sh”t Yechave Daat 2:55 and Chazon Ovadia Shabbos vol. 3 pg 101) quotes a machloket amongst the poskim if a real building that one intends to take apart in a short period of time constitutes boneh. He concludes that lego is permitted since the building has no permanence and it is taken apart often. Sh”t Or Letzion vol 2 (chap 42:5 pg 272), Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 13:30 and 31, and Children in Halacha (pg. 135) agree that lego is completely permitted even for an adult.
    • The Or Letzion's reasoning is that if one intends to take them apart in a short period of time, then it is considered like something that is usually put together and taken apart and doesn't constitute Boneh. Additionally, they are put together for fun and not in order to build.
  45. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:19 (in the new edition) writes that building blocks which fit together tightly are forbidden and continues to give Lego as an example. Rav Ovadia in Chazon Ovadia Shabbat v. 3 pg 103 also points out that in the Hashmatot to Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata, it says that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach retracted his original lenient ruling because of the variety of objects one could build with the same pieces. Similarly, Shalmei Yehuda (pg 90) quotes Rav Elyashiv as saying that lego would be considered building. Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat (Rabbi Pinchas Bodner, pg 24) quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein as saying that it’s not clear whether the interlocking pieces is forbidden, and therefore the Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat writes that one shouldn’t give it to a child, but if the child takes it not to object. See also Sh”t Machazeh Eliyahu 69 who raises the issue of Kotev.
  46. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:33
  47. Children in Halacha (pg 139) and Sh”t Or Letzion 2:45:5 in the note are lenient, while Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:32 says that it’s preferable to refrain.
  48. Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat pg. 24
  49. Chaye Adam (Shabbat 38:11)
  50. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 135), Tiltulei Shabbat (Halachos of Muktzeh pg 24)
  51. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:34
    • The question is one of Borer, which is only permitted in a situation where one is removing desired pieces from the undesirable pieces, by hand (i.e. without a utensil designated for separating), and for immediate use. When playing Rummy, one takes cards from his hand in order to make a set, which is clearly permissible, as it fulfills all three conditions. However, when dropping cards, it seems to be removing the undesired pieces from the desired elements. Rav Asher Weiss (Minchat Asher on Masechet Shabbat, pp. 327) proves that not only are two cards of different number/suit considered one kind and that dropping them from one's hand provides immediate satisfaction in that one's hand is lighter and he's closer to winning, but also that there isn't even any Melacha involved, since Melachot by definition lead up to a greater purpose, which is not true when dropping cards.
  52. Sh”t Or Letzion 2:45:6 writes that it’s not considered writing since it’s only for the purposes of a game (and it’s temporary). So too there’s no issue of Borer since one takes the pieces one wants and uses them immediately. This is also the opinion of Sh”t Beer Moshe 6:26, and Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg quoted in Children in Halacha (pg 140), and Rav Moshe HaLevi in Menuchat Ahava (vol 3, 22:16). However, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:23 forbids if the pieces fit tight together (interlock). Similarly, Shalmei Yehuda (pg 90) quoting Rav Elyashiv and Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat (pg 25; Rabbi Yisrael Bodner) write that it’s forbidden.